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Our Cheatin’ Hearts

According to the National Opinion Research Center, women in the US are catching up to their male counterparts.  Not in making money, leading companies or accumulating wealth, alas.  No, we’re catching up in the percentage of women who have “extramarital affairs.” In the last two decades, the per­centage of wives having affairs rose almost 40 percent to 14.7 percent in 2010, while the number of men admitting to extramarital affairs held constant at 21 percent.

But is this a good thing, or a bad thing?  Fellow PLN member Franklin Veaux thinks that there’s a good side to all of this (as quoted from email):

“In all seriousness, without being flip, I think it [statistical increase in women vs. men engaging in infidelity] IS progress. It shows that we’re moving away from a woman-as-possession model of marriage toward a woman-as-self-motivated-agent model. The cheating thing isn’t good, per se, but the reasons behind it are.” — Franklin Veaux

I’d have to agree with that. It seems that the double standard around who gets to sleep around may be starting to abate. Women are, more and more, making their own choices around with whom to have sex. But is there more to this than meets the eye?  I think so.

Tale a look at some more “infidelity” statistics, as quoted in http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/ :

Marriage Infidelity Statistics Data
Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional 41 %
Percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 57 %
Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 54 %
Percent of married men who have strayed at least once during their married lives 22 %
Percent of married women who have strayed at least once during their married lives 14 %
Percentage of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker 36 %
Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity on business trips 35%
Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law 17 %
Average length of an affair 2 years
Percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered 31 %
Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 74 %
Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 68 %
Percent of children who are the product of infidelity 3 %

800px-Divorce_for_men_onlyI notice several things.  For one thing, that 41% figure contains both people who have actually had sex with someone other than their spouse, AND those who had emotional affairs. Compared with the usual US standard of counting “infidelity” as “sex outside of marriage,” though, this significantly inflates the numbers. Also, from this table, we can’t tell the percentage of men vs. women who engage in either form of infidelity. I bet those numbers would be interesting, too.

For another, there is no room in this chart for polyamory, open relationships, or ethical non-monogamy. If presented with this poll myself, I might answer “yes” to questions about historical infidelity going back to the time before my marriage.  I might also answer “yes” to either emotional or sexual “infidelity” depending on how that term is defined.  It’s certainly true that I’ve had sex AND emotional intimacy with more than just my husband.  *I* don’t call it cheating… but those writing this survey might.

It’s also interesting to me that the average affair lasts about 2 years… just long enough for the “Disney chemicals” to wear off, and the infatuation to fade. Hmmm….

However, on the whole, I’m forced to conclude that the data isn’t particularly firm here, and doesn’t actually say much.  It is, as the saying goes (attributed to Mark Twain), “Lies, damn lies, and statistics,” raising as many questions in my mind about the research, as about the results.

On the good news side, given that it does seem to indicate an increase in people (of any gender) willing to talk about their “infidelity,” this probably bodes well for transparency and honesty in relationships, which in turn probably bodes well for fulfillment within the ones that last — or even the ones that don’t. If people are happier by pursuing outside relationships, and that happiness leads to them choosing new partners, then that would be reflected in the oft-quoted 50% divorce rate — but that might also indicate that people feel more free to pursue what actually makes them happy and fulfilled in relationship, even if that means having sex with someone other than their spouse, or even divorce.

What do you think about all this?  How would you answer a poll of this sort?  Do you think women’s “gains” in equality here are a good thing, a bad thing, or something else altogether?

As always, feel free to comment below, in my LoveOTB Facebook Page, or by contacting me via my web page.  And if you’e looking to talk to someone about creating your own creative and flexible relationship design, I’d love to hear from you.  For a limited time only, I’m running a summer coaching special, so drop me a note to take advantage of the free introductory session, and the extra hour if you buy a package. I’d love to help you avoid common pitfalls, navigate jealousy, and create your own best relationship!

May you always remember that no matter who, or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK!

~♥ Dawn

 

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© 2013, Dawn Davidson

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